NCTE Highlights

So two weeks ago was the NCTE conference, followed by the ALAN workshop. As I mentioned here, it was my first conference in my new job so I was nervous and excited and nauseous building up to the big event (come to think of it, I felt that way during the event too).

I'm happy to report that the conference was a fantastic experience, and I had little reason to worry; some hiccups aside, everything went fairly smooth, I think. Here were some highlights:
  • Someone stopped by our booth and mentioned that Donna Jo Napoli was signing at Penguin's booth, which I could see from our HarperCollins spot. So I was able to hop away and have her sign a copy of The Smile for me. I'm such a huge fan of hers and she graciously allowed me to slobber all over her, going on and on about how Prince of the Pond was one of the first books I read as a children's librarian...blah, blah, blah. She was just brilliant.

  • Do you remember how I mentioned in my earlier post that, if you were attending NCTE, you should stop by the booth and say hi? Well, someone did! I was so flattered and so happy and so relieved (cue Sally Field's Oscar speech). However, in all the hoopla and all the following days, I have forgotten my new friend's name. Monica? I think? Reintroduce yourself to me cyberly!

  • I mentioned to a publishing cohort from another house that we HC gals were going to try to get better about taking breaks from the booth. Her response? "Oh, yeah, no breaks. You also forget to eat and to go to the bathroom. It's like your body shuts down when you're in booth!" Word up. Seriously, give your friends in publishing a hug next time you see them in a booth...or better yet, bring them food or drink. Chances are they have satisfied no basic bodily functions in hours.

  • Lee Bennett Hopkins accepted the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry during the conference and ended his speech by reading Langston Hughes' "Dreams." It was beautiful.

  • Jarrett Krosoczka. Yes, just that name. I saw him across the aisle, signing at Random House's booth and wanted to get over there to tell him what a HUGE fan I am of Lunch Lady and Punk Farm...but it was just too crazy. I saw him no less than ten more times during the course of the conference but, for a multitude of reasons, he remained elusive to me. I never got the chance to go all fangirl on him. So, Jarrett, I am publicly declaring that I'm a fan (I can actually spell your name from memory - how many people can do that?!) and it was a thrill just to see you from afar (over and over again) at NCTE.

  • Speaking of fangirldom, I also got to talk in-depth with Matt Phelan and that was a pinnacle, truly. Eileen Spinelli signed in our booth and - would you believe it? - I never even got a chance to introduce myself, much less gush about how much I adore Where I Live. So imagine my surprise when I spontaneously met Matt in the lobby of our hotel! So I was able to ramble on and on to him about that book...and to find out that Matt is particularly fond of Where I Live as well. Chatting with Matt was a highlight of the conference for me. (Fun story: Matt and I talked at length about David Small's work, and Matt said he was lucky enough to win some original art by David Small during a silent auction at BEA. Apparently Matt hovered next to the sheet, determined to outbid anyone who dared sign their name to paper. And he was rewarded for his vigilance! I thought it would be too fangirl of me to point out to Matt that plenty of people feel the same way about his artwork!)

  • A simple pleasure: watching the sunrise over the river from the 28th floor of my hotel, sipping green tea. When you're on a 5-day-long adrenaline rush, it's quiet moments like this that you treasure.

  • Laurie Halse Anderson's keynote speech at the ALAN breakfast was inspiring and uplifting and funny and beautiful (she blogs a bit about it here). I've never had the pleasure of hearing her speak before and she had the whole room riveted. Likewise, Naomi Shihab Nye's speech at that same breakfast made me laugh and cry at the same time. Both of them made me want to be a better person and made me believe that positive change is possible and that there is good to be found in everyone. Seriously, no irony, no snark.

Lastly, the biggest highlight of the conference for me was our HarperCollins "family dinner" at Osteria. We had it at the "chef's table"...which, seriously, is a huge square butcher block table in a private room off the kitchen. You walk through the prep station to get to it. Around the table are sorbet machines, pastry blenders...the server said the table is actually where they make their pasta every day. The staff had lit candles all around and were playing "Italian pop music." And the food? Oooooh, the food. Superb in every way. Not only was this a highlight for the conference and my job thus far...it was a culinary highlight of my life, truly. An added bonus? Morimoto (!) actually poked his head in briefly to check out the space and we later saw him eating in the main dining room! Apparently he and the owners of Osteria are friends. And here are two subpar photos I took with my phone:

And did I take a moment during the dinner to reflect, like I said I would? Yes, I did. There was a minute or two when I was out of the conversations going on around me. I looked around at the table, watching everyone engaged in conversation, eating and drinking, everything aglow in candlelight. I loved that I had a part in making it happen, and I loved that food and drink allowed us all to slow down and enjoy each other. It would not be exaggerating to say that it was one of the best moments of my adult life, as it was professionally, creatively, and emotionally satisfying.

Eat, drink, and cheers to all of you - for sitting at my table (the blog, of course), for stopping by the booth to see me, and for taking this journey with me. You are so appreciated!


Kristin Cashore said...

Now you've got me all sniffly! And I wasn't even there!


Mônica said...

Yes, that was me who stopped by! I was happy to meet you in person while going around the exhibits. I also got to meet and speak with Matt Phelan, and I was actually back at your both to meet Peter Mccarty! That was such a treat... I got a broadsheet signed and the ARC for "Henry in love." I got to hear him speak too, at one of the sessions along with Amy Bates. Anyway, it was lovely meeting you! And congratulations, Laura, you did a terrific job!

Stasia D said...

Sounds great, Laura! Congrats on making it through and making it happen!

Erin said...

Wow. It all sounds completely wonderful. Thanks for sharing it here.